Thunderbirds (1965- 1966 United Kingdom)

thunderbirds5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 and this review are go! Thunderbirds is perfect entertainment. Everyone can appreciate a good puppet show, & everyone can appreciate a good model; but this show took puppet shows and models to a bold new level of detailing and production complexity. It is indeed like a world of toys come to vibrant life. I have to tip my hat to the incredible creativity and imagination of the craftspeople who made those models. The results are fabulous. Even the music is motivational in that typically 60s inspiring way: impossible to forget.

Some of the scenes filmed look like real disasters and explosions even though the models used were only about 1/50 to 1/200 of real aircraft and ships. Also, there is a huge improvement in the special effect technology from Gerry Anderson’s earlier series like “Supercar” and “Fireball.” The making of this show necessitated a fabricated miniature universe. For the premise to work, that world had to be obsessively detailed, with every doorknob, switch, coat button and lock of hair. If the show went to the mountains, they created the mountains. When the ships were in flight, they created the sky. Whatever was needed to pull the story off was built; there was no limit.

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That these people created a world as believable as they did deserves real praise. “Thunderbirds” represented a budgetary step up and a refinement of technique for Gerry Anderson, who for years had worked to perfect an all-puppet TV show that could be taken as serious drama. It was always targeted at children, but the stories seldom featured kids, and being a “rescue show,” the characters were routinely placed in very threatening predicaments. The effects used to depict scenes of destruction (supervised by Derek Meddings) were often frighteningly realistic. When I saw it as a kid I had no interest in it, because it seemed dry and “too adult.” Seeing it many years later, my reaction was “Wow! How adult!”

The show is the source of many amusing chuckles today, mainly because its seriousness is absolutely unflinching, despite the fact that the puppets obviously aren’t real people. The action was played straight, with appropriate dramatic music cues, and conventional film camera angles and cutting. This all conspired to create a very convincing puppet universe–one that no one would dare attempt today. The DVD releases (from A&E) have gone through a digital cleanup process, which has brightened the colours and sharpened the images considerably. The original monaural audio has also been incorporated into a new surround-stereo “remix” featuring additional sound effects tracks. The augmented explosions are deafeningly loud at times–which is perhaps as it should be! In a word: Amazing.

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Comments

  1. Excellent review of what was a technical achievement of its time! Thunderbirds are go! XD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha ha – yes! 🙂

    Like

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